Now is the time to talk with Iran
On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cut short a two-day visit to neighboring Armenia in a move that shocked many. During his visit, Ahmadinejad was supposed to be a part of ceremonies recognizing the Armenian genocide. In what was sure to draw criticism, Ahmadinejad was to plant trees and speak before Parliament about the Armenian genocide.
The criticism would mainly be drawn from Western scholars who criticize Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust of World War II but his recognition of the genocide of the Armenians. Instead, Ahmadinejad left the country abruptly because of recent developments and problems at home in Iran.
Rising criticism in Iran, even among his own hard-line conservative followers, has plagued Ahmadinejad after the sudden resignation of nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and his replacement – a low-level, unknown foreign minister who is a strong supporter of Ahmadinejad. In what could be perceived as a victory for Ahmadinejad, the rise in criticism against him could undermine his nuclear ambitions. Larijani is a conservative but considered not as hard-line as Ahmadinejad because of his negotiations with the West.
The sudden resignation of Larijani has brought condemnation upon Ahmadinejad by those in his own hard-line camp even as high up as Iran’s highest cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad has hurt Iran’s economy, imposed a nationwide oil rationing and alienated Iran from many of the countries that used to support it.
The recent developments could play into the hands of President George W. Bush and Western powers seeking to check Iran’s rising nuclear power. The criticism at home is giving the impression that the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council are working. Recent elections held in Iran also showed that Ahmadinejad does not have the support of the people, as many of the municipal seats were won by opposition leaders opposed to his fiery rhetoric. As the country sees a 25 percent increase in inflation, this could be the Achilles heel needed to reign in Iran.
The United States has already seen that we cannot force our form of democracy on other countries like Iraq. What we are seeing is that many Iranians feel they have the right to nuclear power for peaceful means, but that power is coming at a cost that many citizens are not willing to pay.
If the United States wishes to reign in the rogue nation, who is an original signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we must act to bolster the moderates within Iran. If the United States wishes to show that we are a fair country, we must help bolster the moderates who believe that they have the right to nuclear power while making sure that nuclear power is not being used to create weapons.
If Iran does gather weapons, a 21st century arms race will probably begin as surrounding nations in the Middle East seek to protect themselves. Already the United States and Jordan have signed an agreement helping Jordan develop nuclear facilities for peaceful means, but it just as well could be seen as a means to check Iran. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are talking about revitalizing their nuclear efforts because of the threat of Iran.
The most recent events occurring within Iran have yet to have implications on the negotiations over uranium enrichment. If the rumblings coming from Iran can force the president to return from a diplomatic trip early, then there could be hope that things will soon change and an all-out war will be avoided. We can only wait to see what happens, but the United States and the West should not pass up this golden opportunity when it seems so many within Iran are unhappy with the current status of negotiations and Iran’s status within the world.
Clancy, a political science senior, can be reached via [email protected]